Beans, lentils and other legumes are a big part of Indian cuisine, as they’re a great source of vegetarian protein. They’re also cheap and can make their way into so many different dishes that they’re the perfect pantry staple. I try to always have a can or two of pre-cooked beans like chickpeas, kidney beans or giant white beans at hand: you’re a few minutes away from a fragrant curry or a creamy hummus and they’re also delicious just pan-fried with whatever greens you have on hand. This recipe features giant beans in a spiced tomato-onion curry that’s finished off with some coconut milk. It takes about 30 minutes to make (if you’re using pre-cooked beans) and the leftovers are delicious as lunch the next day, rounded off with some wilted spinach and an egg. You can replace the beans with chickpeas or smaller cannellini beans, if that’s what you have at hand.
If you choose to cook the beans yourself, you’ll be rewarded with a flavour that’s richer and beans that have more texture to them. Soak the beans before bedtime or before leaving to work, and cook them in a pot or using a pressure cooker (which is what I use) until they’re tender. Canned beans work just as well, though - just make sure to wash them very well before using.
Serves 2 - 4
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 400 gm can whole plum tomatoes in their juice
2 - 3 cups cooked giant white beans (like coronas)
2 cardamom pods
1/4 cm stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1-4 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ghee or sunflower oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
freshly chopped coriander to garnish
Cucumber Mint Raita
1/2 organic cucumber, peeled and grated on the coarse side of a box grater
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
4 - 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of salt
Heat the oil or ghee on medium heat in a large, deep non-stick pan. When warm, add the cloves, lightly crushed cardamom pods and the cinnamon. Allow to fry gently until the spices are fragrant, about half a minute, and then add the chopped onions. Stir the spices into the onions and allow the mixture to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden. In the meantime, remove the tomatoes from their juice and chop finely. Once the onions are done, add the tomatoes to the pan, along with 4 - 6 tablespoons of the juice and mix together. Continue to cook on a medium flame, stirring along the way, until the tomatoes and onions cook together - about 5 - 6 minutes. There shouldn’t be too much liquid at this state: the mixture should moist and not too dry.
Add the ground spices to the onion-tomato base and stir well to combine. Cook for a minute and add the drained beans. If you’ve cooked the beans yourself, save about a cup of the water for the curry. Stir the mixture through and allow to cook, stirring occasionally for 3 - 4 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of the cooking water or just regular tap water to the pan and mix everything well to combine. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times in between.
Remove the lid, add the coconut milk, stir through and then add salt to taste. Simmer the curry for 3 - 4 minutes, check for salt and turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with some freshly chopped coriander and serve hot with rotis, naan or some fresh rice, as well as the raita.
Cucumber Mint Raita
Combine all the ingredients in a medium non-metallic bowl and mix well to combine. Serve fresh!
Prep time: 10 minutes . Cooking time: about 30 minutes (minus the beans prep)